Wake up to air pollution

Aircraft are rarely mentioned in this column because their use as a means of transport in this country is largely confined to international flights.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 10 September, 2018, 13:53
A two-seat aircraft used for initial training of young people for their pilots licence taking off from Eshott Airfield in Northumberland. There are many such airfields all over the country.

In the writer’s view, there are very few internal flights that offer sufficient savings to justify the huge inconveniences associated with passengers using aeroplanes as a form of transport.

The chief disadvantage of most internal flights is that they go to and from Heathrow to connect with international services.

The development of Heathrow following the Second World War as a major hub airport is, I believe, one of the most unfortunate aspects of aviation.

It has been pointed out that the principal function of Heathrow is as an interchange point for international travellers.

Therefore, it has little benefit for the British travellers, whose international air journeys tend to be made from airports such as Gatwick, Luton, Stanstead, Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh.

My Integrated Transport book, mentioned below, was written more than a decade ago.

It is basically an historical document, dealing with the past, rather than the future.

However, the book also contains a final chapter looking forward.

The prospect of global catastrophe was just being taken seriously at the time, but we are becoming rather lax in our approach to environmental considerations now.

It is time to wake up to reality.

In 2006 two separate research projects each reached the same conclusion – that aircraft are 10 times more polluting per passenger-kilometre than electric trains.

Some comparatively small advances have been made in aircraft pollution in the last decade.

However, the most significant advance has been the construction of a solar-powered aircraft. The quicker that technology is advanced, the better it will be for all of us.

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Some far-sighted people are, even now, committed to reducing the amount of flying, yet it is actually still increasing.

In the past, the reaction to increased demand was to increase supply to meet it.

However, there finally came a point when it was realised that the ‘predict and provide’ attitude to flying demand must give way to one of ‘predict and prevent’ instead.

As a result of this, the Integrated Transport book included the following passage.

“A serious approach to ‘Predict and Prevent’ might lead to some lateral thinking, which recognises that North West Europe needs only one major hub airport, for which Amsterdam-Schipol is best suited, with Eurostar services extended from Brussels to Amsterdam.

“An extension of this thinking might thus conclude that London-Heathrow should be closed, and the site, well connected with rail and Underground services, utilised for residential and industrial development, with open space and recreational facilities”.

In 2018 the first tentative extension of Eurostar services to Amsterdam has begun.

And the re-direction of feeder services from British airports to Amsterdam, rather than Heathrow, would be beneficial in relieving the current pressure on Heathrow.

The much-delayed decision on the third runway at Heathrow has now been made.

However, this will involve such enormous disruption to life in the area surrounding the airport, for example, while part of the M25 is sunk into tunnel, which will hardly be a quick-and-easy job to complete.

Added to this, there is the imposition on all of London of many additional aircraft movements.

So, I think it is probably safe to say that we can be confident that it will not happen.